THE COURTESAN by Julia Justiss

PUBLISHING INFO: HQN (Harlequin), 2005
GENRE: Historical Romance
SETTING: England


After years of dangerous fighting on the Peninsula, Captain Jack Carrington has returned home to take up family duties and find himself a wife. But his life is thrown into turmoil when he views a fencing lesson unlike any other. The talented student is no student at all, but a beautiful young woman, and the most infamous courtesan in all of London -- Lady Belle.

Who is the mysterious Belle? A jaded cyprian seeking her next protector? A kind friend helping those in need? Or a mistress of sensual delights that tempt a man to madness? Eager to uncover the true woman behind the facade, Jack wagers he can win a kiss from Belle if he bests her at fencing. And though Belle is a woman he can neither afford to keep nor dare to marry, he's willing to risk it all to win her to his bed.

It was mentioned on a romance forum/message board that the heroine was raped in this. That caught my attention because I had no idea that authors were still putting rape in novels. I didn't know it was 'allowed', for lack of a better word. So I got the book, started reading it sometime in 2006 and quickly got bored with it. I traded the book without having gotten very far in it and later regretted it. Three years later I got it again and just now reread it. Here's what goes on in it.

SPOILER SUMMARY: The story takes place in England in the 1800s. Belle, 22ish, blonde, blue eyed, is a courtesan (prostitute to noblemen) and her lover died less than a month before. The hero, Jack, see's her fencing with someone and discovers that she's a woman, not a man like he assumed. He's intrigued by her and later ends up in a fencing match with her. Belle accidently stabs him with the foil and it pierces his lung. He's in bad shape and is taken to Belle's home to recover. Here's where the story gets very, very boring. Jack is there for quite awhile recovering and that's about it. Nothing goes on between him and Belle. They're attracted to one another but Belle is determined to never be a man's 'whore', as she calls it, again.

While Jack is recovering there, Belle finds this young teenager named Jane working in a brothel. She kidnaps her, basically, and brings her to stay/work at her home. Once while traveling, their carriage is attacked and they think it's someone that the brothel owner has sent to get Jane back. They're right but they aren't harmed and Jane isn't mentioned much after that.

Near the end of Jack's recovery, completely out of the blue, Belle tried to seduce Jack but he was having none of it. He could tell Belle wasn't really interested in seducing him but was interested in him, in getting to know him better. I guess she thought the only way to express that was to offer him sex. Sometime after that, Jack told her he wanted to marry her. She told him it wouldn't be acceptable for him to marry an ex-prostitute and refused him. When Jack was almost well, he agreed to stay another week. During that week, they had sex for the first time. He then left her home when he was healed from the stab wound. They went their seperate ways and their lives got back to normal.

Here's where I feel the author didn't know where to go with the story so she just threw a piece of nonsense into the mix. Jack met his younger sister's friend, Kitty. He thought Kitty looked a whole lot like Belle. Kitty told him the story of how her older sister Constance (Belle) and mother died almost seven years ago, when she was about thirteen. They were buried at the inn where they'd all been staying and Kitty went to live with a relative. That sounded similar to the story Belle had told him about how she became a prostitute. She told him her mother died and was buried and her younger sister was planning to live with a relative. Belle, while at the inn, had met some much older, married man who offered to let him stay with him and his wife. I guess Belle knew she was going to have a sexual relationship with him. She didn't want her sister to know so she didn't tell her that. Belle later finds out that the man she was to live with told her sister that she had died right after the mother and was buried beside her out on the inn's property. He even paid to have a tombstone put there. Jack then travelled to the inn to check out Kitty's story and was told that no, the sister, Constance, didn't really die. That's when Jack knew Belle and Constance were the same person.

After that discovery, Belle was at home and Lord Rupert, a man who has lusted after her, paid her an unwelcome visit. He punched her in the head or face and knocked her unconscious. While passed out, he raped her and tied her to the bed. She woke up, they arugued, he told her all her servants were in another building on the property. He left her alone in the bedroom and out of the clear blue sky came her young male employee right down the chimney to rescue her! He pulled out a knife and cut her wrists loose. Right then, Jack appeared. He'd been going there to check on her. He hadn't seen her since he went back home after he'd recovered. Rupert came into the room and he and Belle started fencing, I kid you not. Of course, she beat him. Jack made Rupert promise to leave the country and never return.

While out somewhere at some party, Jack reunited Belle with her sister Kitty. Later, Belle finally agreed to marry him. That's how the story ended.

MY THOUGHTS: I must say this was one of the slowest and most boring books that I've ever read. Words can't really describe how let down I feel. The first two thirds or so was just Jack recovering from his wound at Belle's. To me, that just wasn't believable. There was no reason at all for Jack to have been taken to Belle's when he could have gone to a friend, or family members, home to recover. Why would you stay at a known prostitute's home? And adding Jane to the story was pointless simply because it did noting for it. Jane wasn't mentioned much after she came to live with Belle. And the stuff with Kitty thinking her sister dead, well, it just wasn't needed. I do think the rape was thrown in just for shock value and the strange thing was, it wasn't shocking at all.

She could have had the rape take place midway though the story and the rest could have been Jack helping Belle 'recover' and them falling in love with each other.

I won't be trying this author again. Overall, I was terribly disappointed with the story. It could have been such a great love story; man falling for ex fallen woman and all that pretty stuff. This wasn't a bodice ripper though it did have one bodice ripper-like scene near the the end, with the rape.

The authors complete booklist can be found here.

MIDNIGHT LADY by Rosemary Rogers

You can read the synopsis here. This book was published in 1997 but it seemed so much like an older book. In fact, while I wasn't very far into the story, I kept going to the front of the book to check the publication date because I was sure this was an 80s book.

I'd had the book for six years and finally got around to it last week. It was part of a set of 10 that I'd gotten off the ever popular Ebay in 2004. It's the fifth Rosemary Rogers book that I've read. I enjoyed this book more towards the beginning than I did the last part of it. The hero, Brett Banning, was totally alpha, very forceful and the heroine, Kyla, was a bit fiesty, like I like. I'm a little surprised she gave in to being Brett's mistress so darn quickly. I don't think the HEA (happily ever after) was belivable and it didn't happen until the last few pages. The story didn't get bogged down with history like some of her books can. It was a pretty simply, easy-to-follow plot. I don't buy the coincidence that the man Kyla was to marry just happened to the man who stole Brett's important papers.

So overall, I liked this book OK and I'd grade it maybe a very low B-. Though there was no abuse toward the heroine by anyone, I do consider this a bodice ripper because the hero was so strong and arrogant and he just had to have the heroine...and told her so!

The rest of Rosemary's novels are:

  • Sweet Savage Love  1974
  • The Wildest Heart   1974
  • Dark Fires  1975
  • Wicked Loving Lies  1976
  • The Crowd Pleasers (contemporary) 1978
  • The Insiders (contemporary) 1979
  • Lost Love, Last Love  1980
  • Love Play (contemporary) 1981
  • Surrender to Love  1982
  • The Wanton  1985
  • Bound by Desire  1985
  • The Tea Planter's Bride  1995
  • A Dangerous Man  1996
  • Midnight Lady  1987
  • All I Desire  1998
  • In Your Arms  2000
  • Savage Desire 2000
  • A Reckless Encounter  2001
  • An Honorable Man 2002
  • Return to Me  2003
  • Jewel of My Heart  2004
  • Sapphire  2005
  • A Daring Passion  2007
  • Scandalous Deception  2008
  • Bound By Love  2009
  • Scoundrel's Honor  2010

THE PRINCE OF EDEN by Marilyn Harris

PUB. INFO: Putnam, 1978
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SETTING: England
SERIES: Eden, book 2

From Publisher:  Edward Eden, a noble and passionate man of the people pursued a course decreed by his bastard heritage.

Heir to the vast wealth but not the title of Lord Thomas Eden's estate, he rose to become the most splendid libertine in all London...and fell into the iron grip of a sinister addiction.

Dashing conqueror of hearts more, willing then wise, he drank freely, recklessly from the waters of passion...only to lose himself body and soul to the one woman whose intoxicating thirst he was -- and forbidden -- to quench.

Her world was forgotten, his destiny sealed, a dynasty dammed, in one silent hour of lose.

SPOILER SUMMARY: This is the second in the series. It begins about 36 years after the first book ended. Edward is about 42. He ends up getting addicted to laudanum in the novel. In the beginning of the book, Edward meets a girl at Newgate prison named Elizabeth. He'd go there to bring the inmates treats and stuff. Elizabeth is a teenager, I think, and helps Edward and his friend run a school for poor kids. Edward and Elizabeth are never together romantically.

Edwards younger bother James is not a bastard like Edward so James is to inherit the title and lands and all that. Harriet is to marry James and she and Edward begin an affair. She gets pregnant by Edward, no one but her parents and a nurse know. She's kept prisoner in her home until after the baby is born. It's born and given away.

Coincidentally, Edward and Elizabeth are at an inn and they see the baby, and they don't know it's actually Edward's and Harriet's, being branded with the word 'bastard' by some man so they kidnap it and Edward raises the boy as his own. I just checked my book and the son is named John. About 15 years later,  when John is 15, Edward dies in some accident with a piece of equipment and John goes to Eden to live with his father's relatives. Neither he nor Harriet know that he is her son. That's how that book ends. I think his mother Marianne, from the first book, dies in this one.

This series is pure fiction, not romance. This book was boring. But I know with book three this series will take a disturbing turn.

Here is the reading order for the series:

•This Other Eden
•The Prince of Eden
•The Eden Passion
•The Women of Eden
•Eden Rising
•American Eden
•Eden and Honor

THIS OTHER EDEN by Marilyn Harris

otheredenPUBLISHING INFO: Putnam, 1977
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SETTING: England, 1790
SERIES: Eden, book 1

FROM PUBLISHER: The secret of the entire world is whispered here at Eden....

Since time out of memory, Eden Castle had ridden the storm-swept Devon cliffs like a ghostly figurehead On a ship of the damned.

He was the last Lord of Eden Castle, Thomas Eden, a man of brooding desire and sudden passion ...

She was his servant girl, Marianne Locke, the fiery young beauty who would rather submit to the cruel kiss of the whip than suffer the lust of a man she did not love...

From the wild Devonshire coast to the glittering literary salons of London, the tumultuous union of these two proud people Hazed a raging tempest of enduring love.

SPOILER SUMMARY: In the first book, 'This Other Eden', it's 1790 and the heroine, Marianne is 16 and is whipped by 40 year old Thomas Eden. I can't remember why. Two months later she goes to stay with her older sister Jane and her boyfriend, William Pitch. Thomas Eden wants to rape Marianne and Jane offers to help him set it up by giving him a key to Marianne's room. Thomas goes into the room, Marianne is naked getting ready for bed, she screams, causes a commotion, everyone comes running into the room and William Pitch shoots Thomas. Jane confesses to Marianne her role in the near-rape. Later, Marianne and Thomas get married but she later finds out that it was not legal. Marianne gives birth to Edward (from the second book in the series).

Marianne leaves Thomas. He feels guilty for having her whipped so he has someone whip him 40 times. Marianne nurses Thomas back to health that day and they get married and end up having a second son. By this time she is about 26 years old that's how the book ends.

MY THOUGHTS: I'll admit that the synopsis makes this sound really interesting but it was just boring and longer than it needed to be. It wasn't as dark as I was hoping it would be.

This is the reading order of the series:
  • This Other Eden
  • The Prince of Eden
  • The Eden Passion
  • The Women of Eden
  • Eden Rising
  • American Eden
  • Eden and Honor